Is Apple’s car coming in 2026?

The much-rumoured car project appears to be much more conventional than originally planned

Apple’s on-again, off-again project to build its own car appears – possibly – to be on again, but in a much reduced and rather more conventional form than was originally promised. When ‘Project Titan’ – the in-house name for Apple’s own car project – was originally announced, it seemed that it might become one of the first truly, 100 per cent autonomous cars, more analogous to a robotic shuttle than a car.

If Bloomberg News is to be believed, however, Titan has become rather more conventional. The Apple car will be electric, of course, and it will come bristling with advanced driver assistance systems, but those systems will be there to support and aid the driver, not to replace them. It should also, just possibly, go on sale by 2026.

Beyond that, little is known. Presumably, the Apple car will major on the integration of Apple’s phone and entertainment technology in the cabin – think Apple CarPlay only more so – but that in itself presents some problems. While many car makers have recently tied-up with Google’s Android software to form the basis of their in-car systems, which brings benefits in the shape of complete integration between a driver’s Google Maps searches and saved destinations, effectively a seamless link between their phone and their car.

Apple’s Map app is much less well-developed than Google’s, and is still generally considered to be the poorer relative when it comes to navigation, so if an Apple car has integrated Apple Maps, to the exclusion of Google, then the tech giant may well be setting up customer disappointment before a single car has left the showroom.


The car is likely to be much more conventional than previously thought, with five forward-facing seats, a steering wheel, and pedals

What will the car look like? That is still unknown. Originally, the idea was to have a lounge-style cabin, with two sofa-style seats facing each other, allowing occupants to talk and chat while the car drove itself. Apple, at one point, hinted towards the ground-breaking Fiat 600 Multipla of the 1950s – the first true MPV – as one of its inspirations.

Now, though, it’s likely to be much more conventional, with five forward-facing seats, a steering wheel, and pedals. Ulrich Kranz, formerly of electric car startup Canoo, is leading the design team so it’s possible that some of Canoo’s MPV-esque DNA might make it across to the Apple car.

Then there is the question of how Apple will build its cars. The Californian company has, allegedly, had talks with car makers as varied as Mercedes and BMW, Nissan, China’s BYD, and even sports car maker McLaren to licence-build an Apple car. So far as anyone can tell, those talks have come to nothing. At one point it did seem as if Apple had agreed a joint production effort with Hyundai, but that was quashed by a statement from Hyundai saying that there had been nothing more than talks with Apple, and certainly not a dotted-line deal.

One possibility is Foxconn. The gigantic Taiwanese company is already making iPhone for Apple, and it has laid out ambitions to become a major supplier and maker of cars under contract to the motor industry. Liu Young-Way, chairman of Foxconn (which is technically called the Hon Hai Technology Group), has said that he wants the company to build 5 per cent of the world’s electric cars by 2025.

Foxconn has recently bought the massive ex-General Motors factory in Ohio from controversial electric pickup truck company Lordstown, and has agreed to make Lordstown’s trucks there under licence. Foxconn has also agreed to help independent electric car maker Fisker to get its affordable PEAR car into production, and it has reportedly agreed a deal with Volkswagen to bring the long-defunct Scout brand back to dealers.

Equally, Apple has used Lexus models as driving prototype for its various systems, so it’s possible that a deal with Lexus or Toyota might be on the cards. If nothing else, it would allow Toyota to spread the cost of developing its new ‘bz’ electric car platform.

Then there are the myriad issues that make car production far more difficult than it seems. While Apple, and other tech companies, are fixated on the software side of things, the tricky parts of cars are basically everything else. From making batteries which are cold-weather proven and reliable, to supposedly simple things such as windscreen wipers and headlights, cars are difficult to build, and more difficult again to build well. As the former Formula One designer Gordon Murray said when designing his magnum opus, the McLaren F1 supercar, the difficult part of getting that 400km/h missile to work wasn’t the 600hp BMW V12 engine nor the carbon-fibre chassis, it was getting the door seals to work properly.

The system supports safe driving by recognising and analysing the surrounding environment in real time

One tech company that has apparently made a proper breakthrough to producing a car is Sony, but to do so the consumer electronics giant has teamed up with a fellow Japanese legend – Honda.

Sony’s Vison-S concept car, shown last year, is a handsome, sleek electric four-door that in prototype from has a twin-motor, 400kW (536hp) layout. According to Sony, its electronic vehicle suite can amplify both safety and in-car entertainment. “The system supports safe driving by recognising and analysing the surrounding environment in real time, with sensors installed 360 degrees around the vehicle,” said a Sony spokesperson.. “These sensors include high-sensitivity, high-resolution, wide dynamic range CMOS image sensors and LiDAR sensors that accurately sense three-dimensional space.

“In addition, the system provides intuitive driver interaction in conjunction with the vehicle’s sound system and HMI system, so that the driver can accurately judge the status of the surrounding environment, such as the presence of emergency vehicles, even from inside the vehicle.”

But Sony, for all its electronic expertise, decided that it would be best to combine with Honda to build an actual car that customers can buy. In fact, the car will be substantially engineered and built by Honda, while Sony will provide the autonomous tech, and the in-car infotainment and entertainment, possibly featuring a built-in PlayStation 5.

Will Apple have to do the same – team up with an established car maker to short-cut the difficulties of making a car ready for production? Or will one of the wealthiest companies in the world flex its financial muscles, and try and push ahead on its own?

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring